The Kodi developer community have become the latest targets of the media companies, as they crack down on copyright infringement that has become associated with the media centre software. Several of the most popular add-ons have been taken offline over the past few weeks, having been targeted with lawsuits.
Kodi has distanced itself from apps that enable copyright infringement, but the open nature of its platform means it has become a hotbed for pirates. That’s because many of the add-ons provide access to movies, TV shows and live streaming TV channels, the latter of which have caused the most problems for some add-ons.
Dish Network, the US-based satellite broadcast provider, has been the most bullish with its legal campaign against Kodi. Just last week the company filed a lawsuit in a Texas federal court, listing several add-ons as a target for damages. The key target in the lawsuit was ZemTV, which allows users to watch various Dish channels without the need for a subscription.
“The ZemTV service is retransmitting these channels over the Internet to end-users that download the ZemTV add-on for the Kodi media player, which is available for download at the websites www.tvaddons.ag and www.tvaddons.org,” the lawsuit reads.
It’s not just the add-ons that Dish is gunning for either, as the company has also listed the TVAddons as a defendant. Dish notes that platforms such as TVAddons play an important role in distributing pirated content through association with apps such as ZemTV. In other words, by distributing ZemTV, TVAddons is partially reliable for the copyright-infringement. The platform was also used by ZemTV’s developer as a way to share and promote is service, while also profiting off of the copyright infringement by asking for donations.
“Website Operators have actual or constructive knowledge of this infringing activity and materially contribute to that activity by providing the forum where the ZemTV add-on can be downloaded and soliciting and accepting donations from ZemTV users,” Dish notes.
“But for the availability of the ZemTV add-on at www.tvaddons.ag or www.tvaddons.org, most if not all of Developer’s distribution and/or public performance would not occur.”
For its part in the copyright infringement, Dish is asking for $150,000 per infringement in damages from ZemTV. Given the popularity of the add-on, that could easily spiral into the millions, potentially bankrupting the developer behind the app. TVAddons has also been asked to pay damages, although it has been accused of the lesser crime of contributory and vicarious copyright infringement, and will face statutory damages.
Since the lawsuit, ZemTV has shut down its app completely, although it’s not alone. Other developers have been spooked by the action taken by Dish, and have also ceased operating their add-ons. These include the popular Phoenix add-on, which was regularly used as an example of the many services available on the ‘fully-loaded’ Kodi boxes.
Phoenix has been the poster child of copyright infringement on Kodi, and is likely to be feeling the heat after ZemTV’s lawsuit. The add-on allows users to access various movies, TV shows, and live TV broadcasts. In fact, Phoenix carried ZemTV’s channels as part of its all-encompassing offering.
Responding to the lawsuit against ZemTV, Phoenix developer Cosmix, released the following statement: “In light of current events we have decided to close down Phoenix. This is not something that was easy for us to do; we have all formed a bond that cannot be broken as a team and have a HUGE support base that we are thankful of.
“I can speak for myself when I say thank you to everybody that has ever been involved in Phoenix and it will always be one of my fondest memories.”
By shutting down Phoenix, many of those using Kodi will suddenly be unable to access much of the content they’ve been enjoying. Their options for alternatives are also dwindling, with developer One242415 making a similar decision to close down his add-on.
“I am removing my addon for good. It was a hell of a ride for me. First starting off with Navi-X, then with Mashup, then with Phoenix, and for two months with my own add-on,” he said in a statement.
Echo Coder is another developer shutting down all of his addons, writing on Twitter: “The reality is we did say the growth of third party popularity would hinder us. Unfortunately, now it looks like an implosion.”
Kodi has been thrust into the spotlight for its part in the war on pirates. While content creators were targeting download sites such as Kickass Torrents and The Pirate Bay just a few years ago, it seems that what really irks them is the convenience of streaming that these add-ons afford. Dish will also likely be motivated by the increasing rate at which American consumers are cutting the cord and ditching their pay TV services.
Things are not likely to get any easier for the Kodi development community anytime soon. The European Union has already ruled any copyright infringement, whether it’s streamed or downloaded is illegal, the intergovernmental body also banned the sale of ‘fully-loaded’ Kodi boxes, which came with many of these add-ons preinstalled. The UK Government has also been targeting Kodi streamers, with prison sentences of up to 10 years on offer for those committing copyright infringement.